The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Global eye on caste bias

New Delhi, April 22: Caste discrimination in India has come under international glare.

Thanks to relentless campaigning by the International Dalit Solidarity Network and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, the UN has decided to appoint two special rapporteurs to investigate discrimination based on work and descent.

The move by the UN Commission for Human Rights, the first ever, will bring solace to some 170 million Dalits. The commission feels caste discrimination should be brought under human rights.

The rapporteurs (who report) have been asked to prepare a study on discrimination and submit a preliminary report to the sub-commission on promotion and protection of human rights. They would then have to give a progress and a final report.

In its Tuesday meeting in Geneva, the sub-commission adopted a resolution approving the appointment of the two representatives, Yozo Yokota and Chin-Sung Chung.

The move comes in the wake of an international consultation in Kathmandu last year. The Kathmandu Dalit Declaration lists measures to be taken not only by governments, the UN and development agencies, but also the private sector, trade unions and international financial institutions.

The UN sub-commission will undertake a three-year study led by the rapporteurs. Draft guidelines would then be put together to eliminate discrimination based on work and descent, said Arun Khote of the national campaign.

Its general secretary Vincent Manoharan, who campaigned in Geneva, said: 'This is a belated victory in the internationalisation of the plight of Dalits.'

He said he welcomed the stance of the Indian government, which 'did not stand in the way of the passing and adoption of this resolution'.

The move will help end caste and related forms of discrimination not only in India but also Bangladesh, Japan, Senegal and Nigeria.

Some 260 million people globally are deprived of basic rights by such forms of discrimination.

The resolution urged the UN secretary-general and the UN high commissioner for human rights to provide the special rapporteurs all the necessary assistance.

It authorised the rapporteurs to seek the co-operation of and collaboration with relevant treaty bodies and UN organs, agencies and mandates, including the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, International Labour Organisation and the Unesco.

It urged that necessary constitutional, legislative and administrative measures, including appropriate forms of affirmative action and public education programmes, be put in place to prevent and redress discrimination based on work and descent.

Such measures should be respected and implemented by all state authorities at all levels, it added.

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